Transit Briefs: Gateway, LIRR, SMARTWritten by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Construction on the Hudson River rail tunnels, part of the Gateway Program in New York and New Jersey, will advance with a $292 million Mega grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Also, MTA Long Island Rail Road’s Grand Central Madison will not open by the end of the year, as planned; and California’s Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) will receive $1.8 million in Community Project Funding under the FY 2023 Consolidated Appropriations Act, which was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Dec. 23.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Dec. 29 announced that construction work on the Hudson River rail tunnel project connecting Penn Station New York and New Jersey will commence “in the coming months on the Manhattan side” with a $292 million federal grant, the New York Daily News reported.
The project—one component of the Gateway Program—includes the construction of a new two-track rail tunnel along the Northeast Corridor from the Bergen Palisades in New Jersey to Manhattan. It consists of three major elements: the Hudson Yards right-of-way preservation project, a new Hudson Tunnel, and the rehabilitation and modernization of the existing North River tunnel (see map below).
The current tunnel system is 111 years old (constructed by the Pennsylvania Railroad as part of the New York Improvements Program) and was damaged in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy. About 450 New Jersey Transit and Amtrak trains use the tunnels every weekday, and before COVID-19 hit there were about 200,000 daily passenger trips.
According to the New York Daily News, the new federal money “will cover about half the $600 million cost of building the concrete casing of a box tunnel that will carry trains beneath Hudson Yards in and out of Penn Station. …”
The newspaper reported that the box tunnel “will be the first significant construction on the Hudson River tunnel portion of the long-delayed Gateway project. … Concrete tunnel casing leading west from Penn Station to Tenth Ave. is complete.” The new federal grant “will fund extension of the concrete tunnel casing from Tenth Ave. to west of Eleventh Ave., said Stephen Sigmund, a Gateway Program spokesman,” according to the newspaper, which noted that the Hudson Tunnel portion of the project is estimated to cost some $16.1 billion.
LIRR on Dec. 29 reported on Twitter that Grand Central Madison will not open by year’s end. “One of the zones in the 700,000-square-foot terminal ‘requires additional work that will take more than a few days,’ MTA construction and development president Jamie Torres-Springer said in a statement,” according to Spectrum News NY1. “‘Given the logistics of concluding testing and launching service, we have advised MTA Chair Janno Lieber that the terminal will not open this week,’ he said.” Grand Central Madison’s opening had been planned for this year.
LIRR’s $11.1 billion project to bring commuter rail service to Manhattan’s East Side will allow riders will travel to Grand Central Madison, which is located under Grand Central Terminal, which currently serves MTA Metro-North Railroad and MTA New York City Transit. Construction of the East Side Access project—originally conceived in the 1960s and developed in the 1990s—began in 2006 (see map below), and represents the largest expansion of LIRR service since the original Pennsylvania Station and its East River Tunnels opened Sept. 8, 1910.
Spectrum News NY1 reported Torres-Springer as saying, “We will coordinate with the Federal Railroad Administration to open the new Terminal and commence LIRR service as soon as possible in January.”
In related developments, New York MTA on Dec. 19 announced that LIRR would introduce special Grand Central District service to Grand Central Madison beginning when the facility systems testing is complete, to “enable the public to begin exploring the new terminal and its route while the LIRR continues to maintain full existing schedules to Penn Station.”
SMART has reported that it will receive $1.8 million in federal funding for the SMART Rail Extension to Healdsburg–Preliminary Design project in Sonoma and Marin.
“Expanding the SMART railway north will not only create hundreds of construction jobs refurbishing the rail infrastructure but will more importantly usher in economic opportunities by strengthening our housing, business and community infrastructure,” the passenger rail agency said.
“A strong transit network supporting the entire North Bay is crucial if we are to meet our goals of building climate resilience and creating access to opportunities for education, employment, health care and housing,” said David Rabbitt, Chair of the SMART Board of Directors. “SMART’s expansion northward will create access to opportunity for people along the entire SMART corridor including Healdsburg and Cloverdale.”
The current 45-mile commuter rail system includes stations in the Sonoma County Airport area, Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Cotati, Petaluma, Novato, San Rafael, and Larkspur. SMART’s system also includes a bicycle and pedestrian pathway along the rail corridor. In addition to Healdsburg and Cloverdale, another future extension is planned for Windsor. The full project will provide 70 miles of passenger rail service.
In related developments, SMART in October allotted $14 million to build second Petaluma station.